Whether you are out with friends or at home cooking for yourself, here are some tips to help align your eating habits with your quest to better health! They may even help to keep your waistline in check.
1. Choose broth-based soups rather than cream-based ones (most of the time).
It’s ok to indulge in a creamy tomaso basil once in a blue moon, but know that dairy cream is rich in saturated fat and just 2 tablespoons provides 2 grams of saturated fat which is 10% of the daily value! Saturated fat is the one that can easily build up in the lining of your arteries. Broth-based soups will typically be lower in fat and calories.
2. If you really want a cream-based soup, portion control is key.
Go for a cup rather than a bowl size. Then fill up with veggies and lean protein.
3. Choose vinaigrette-based salad dressings rather than cream-based.
Much like the soups, creamy dressings are higher in fat and saturated fat than vinaigrette-based ones. Ask for dressing on the side and pour as needed, this way you have control rather than someone in the kitchen.
4. Choose grilled, baked, roasted, broiled and steamed foods rather than fried options.
We wish there was a way to fry those mozza sticks without them absorbing all that extra oil! Fried foods have tons of extra calories and fat compared to their non-fried counterparts. Stick to foods that are not fried–even baked potato trumps fries here.
5. Portion your nuts and seeds
Nuts (and seeds) although small, are densely packed with calories due to their oil content (albeit healthy fat). It’s easy to go overboard on these since they are so small and delicious, so its best to be mindful of portion sizes, especially if you are trying to lose weight. A little goes a long way!
6. Split a dinner entrée with someone
If you’re eating out, chances are you’ll be grabbing drinks too. Considering those added liquid calories, splitting an entrée is a great idea. Not to mention that restaurant-prepared foods are typically much higher in calories than home-cooked meals. Get a side salad or a side of veggies to fill up.
7. Choose a sensible appetizer as your entrée
By sensible we mean relatively healthy (i.e. it includes some sort of vegetable and isn’t deep fried). This is a great idea if no one is available to split a meal with. Add a side of veggies or side salad to help you feel full.
8. Share dessert
Think twice about dessert: that brownie a la mode probably has as many calories as a cheeseburger and fries meal (no joke!). Even if it is a special occasion, you should share dessert with a few others to split those calories. Use a small spoon so it takes longer to consume and savor every bite.
9. Use small plates and bowls for serving your food
If you have 8 inch plates, use those instead of the regular 10 inch ones. Even if you fill your plate, you’ll automatically serve yourself less food. Take your time enjoying the meal and you may even find that you are just as satisfied with a smaller serving.
10. Substitute sugar-filled jams and jellies with “no-sugar added” versions
Fruit is naturally sweet–why add more sugar? If you are an avid pb&j-er or just like something sweet on your morning toast, give the no-added sugar version a try. You’ll cut out lots of unwanted calories. Don’t confuse this with the sugar-free version which may use an alternative sweetener like stevia or sucralose.
11. (For meat eaters), choose poultry and fish over red meat
We’re not saying stop eating red meat, but definitely limit it to 1-2 times per week. Red meat consumption has been linked to conditions like heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers. Choose seafood, or lean white meats more frequently, which can contain significantly less saturated fat.
12 .Season your veggies with lemon and herbs instead of oil-based dressings
You can get just as good a flavor (and 0 calories) from herbs and lemon rather than creamy or oily dressings. This is an easy way to cut extra calories if you are trying to watch your figure.
13. When baking, substitute half the oil in a dessert recipe with applesauce
Unsweetened applesauce that is. Then reduce the baking temperature by 25 degrees F and keep an eye on the baked goodie 20 minutes before it’s done baking. The applesauce can make it cook a bit faster. You’ll cut out loads of calories and the taste will be just as good.
14. Choose dark chocolate over milk or white chocolate.
Unsweetened natural cocoa powder is loaded with antioxidants and fiber, but the benefits are offset when its loaded with milk fat and sugar. Dark chocolate is more nutritious and typically lower in calories than lighter colored chocolates.
15. Skim at least half of the frosting or whipped cream off your dessert.
You’ll be cutting out a minimum of 50 calories and 2g of fat for every tablespoon full scrapped off! And put it on a napkin or other place you wont be tempted to pick at it after your done with dessert.
16. Substitute regular soda for sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon, orange or a couple muddled berries.
This works especially well for adult beverages, but you can use it for any occasion. If you’re adventurous try adding some herbs like mint or basil in too.
17. Pick nut or seed-based trail mix for a quick convenience store snack
On the go and no healthy choices around? When all you have are pre-packaged foods, trail mix is a more nutritious option than chips or candy and the protein and oils in the nuts/seeds will help to keep you full for longer. Allergic to nuts? Opt for
a granola or protein bar instead.
18. Don’t eat from the bulk bag
This is an invitation to endless snacking (and loads of unneeded calories). Instead of eating from the bag, control your portions by pouring individual servings from items in bulk bags (i.e. pretzels, popcorn, chips, crackers).
19. Snack on raw veggies or fruit rather than chips and dip
Veggies contain tons of vitamins and minerals–nutrients your body needs to function normally–plus they’re naturally low in calories! Chips provide very little nutrition in comparison. That’s why they call them, “empty calories”. If you’re at home, keep some pre-chopped or sliced veggies at hand so when you’re hungry you can reach for them instead of the empty calories.
20. If you choose chips and dip, go for the baked variety
We know you wont always reach for fruits or veggies, so when you do pick chips, get the baked kind which is lower in fat (and thus calories) than regular fried chips.
21. Choose fresh fruit rather than dried fruit
There’s nothing wrong with some dried fruit in your trail mix, or a small handful to satisfy a sweet tooth. But compared to regular fruit, dried fruit is less filling (since the water’s been removed making the volume smaller) and more sugary per ounce of serving.
22. Make a healthier frozen treat
Enjoy a frozen banana with a few dark chocolate- or peanut butter chips, rather than regular ice cream. Frozen fruit in general is a great way to cool off while satisfying your sweet tooth.
23. Skip the bread- or chip basket
You know that basket full of carby goodness that they love to give you at some restaurants while you wait for your food? That’s an easy way to load up 500+ un-wanted calories, especially if they’re bottomless! Ask the server to remove these and order a vegetable appetizer if you need to nosh.
24. Try zucchini or squash noodles instead of regular wheat noodles
Don’t knock it 'til you try it. These low-calorie veggie alternatives to regular pasta are the perfect way to slash calories and get more of the good stuff your body needs! Plus they add loads of flavor to the dish compared to regular pasta noodles.
25. Pour some of separated PB oil out
If you buy "natural" peanut butter at the grocery store, then you’ve probably noticed how the oil sits on top of the jar before stirring. Pour at least half the contents out into a different jar and use it for cooking! Your peanut butter may be a little tougher to stir but so worth it for all the calories saved.
By: Scarlett Full, in-house Registered Dietitian